Thursday, December 08, 2005

Threats and Perspective

Writing at the Counterterrorism Blog, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross notes this "puzzling response" to his superb article on the Islamist threat to intellectual freedom:

And in the same week that a whistle-blowing civil-servant was legally gagged for spilling the beans that Bush was planning to silence the free and independent TV station, Al Jazeera.

Yes, I'm sure Bush was seriously planning to bomb Al Jazeera, just as Ronald Reagan was only five minutes from unleashing a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union.

By the way, this is the same "free and independent" Al Jazeera whose news managers were bought and paid for by Saddam Hussein. Anyway, Amir Taheri has shown just how absurd the "bomb Al Jazeera" notion really is.

However, it is Mr. Garteenstein-Ross who points out the fundamental flaw in his critic's position:

Thus, Murray's argument aspires to be a logical fallacy, but falls short even of that. Instead, his position seems to be that because the Bush Administration allegedly strangled speech, I cannot criticize Islamists for threatening free speech with death. In his incoherent response, Murray typifies many Westerners' sadly tepid response to these threats from Islamists. He is so absorbed with his hatred of the Bush administration that he cannot bring himself to acknowledge, let alone stand up to, the Islamist assault on free speech.

(emphasis added-DD)

This is exactly the attitude that I tried to discuss in the Patriot Act portion of my article for the Chronicle, when I criticized the often exaggerated obsession with Section 215 among many librarians. As I wrote then, "I believe that the primary threats to our freedom are named bin Laden and Zarqawi, not Ashcroft and Gonzales."

Debate over where to strike the balance between patron privacy and public safety is entirely normal and proper. Yet there is a bigger picture that some choose to overlook. America is at war with an enemy who would gleefully destroy the vast majority of our library materials, and murder those who produced, published and distributed them. Many librarians, however, act as if the greatest threat to intellectual freedom is the possibility of FBI agents with a FISA warrant. Personally, I choose to regard beheadings and book burnings as a far more serious threat to our liberties than subpoenas.


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